The Houdon Bust Gallery features Mount Vernon’s most prized artifact, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s terra cotta bust of George Washington. This remarkable sculpture – the most accurate likeness of Washington ever created – is installed at Washington’s height to give visitors an indication of how he towered over most of his contemporaries.
The gallery features extraordinary Washington objects from England, Europe, China, and America that reflect the man and his love of beauty, his refined taste, his status within his world, and his purchasing power. Visitors will feel as if they are present in the dining room of the presidential residence in Philadelphia, at one of the dinners that Washington held every Thursday at 4:00 p.m., when Congressmen and other government officials were invited to dine with the President.
Focusing on the more public persona of George Washington, this gallery features artifacts relating to his military career and presidency. Washington’s sword, silver camp cups, and a pair of silver spurs he gave to a soldier at Valley Forge so that he could ride to Boston for much-needed supplies are displayed in addition to a variety of objects pertaining to Washington's inauguration.
In this gallery visitors get a glimpse of the Washingtons’ daily lives, whether at Mount Vernon or on the road. A beautifully embroidered shell cushion fashioned by Martha Washington, along with her sewing basket and work table, and Washington’s ducking gun, hunting horn, riding crop, and fishing tackle box showcase domestic life while “life on the road” is represented by Washington’s Revolutionary War folding camp bed along with his trunk, razor, telescope, and saddlebag.
The cases in this gallery present the personal objects used and worn by George and Martha Washington, their children and grandchildren. Objects in the gallery range from George Washington’s shoe and knee buckles to Martha Washington’s earrings and necklaces. One case is devoted to the costly textiles worn by the Washington family, and these light-sensitive objects rotate on a regular basis. Another focuses on jewel-like miniatures of members of the Washington family.
Washington’s insatiable hunger for knowledge, his keen curiosity, and his life-long desire to better understand the world around him, is shown through manuscripts, maps, prints, and books. These rare and important objects address broader topics such as our country’s founding documents, slavery, and Washington’s Last Will and Testament. This gallery has the tranquil feel of an elegant library and includes Washington’s recently conserved globe, spectacles, inkstand, and one of his Argand lamps.
This temporary exhibition, on display through August 11, 2013, allows visitors to step behind the scenes to explore how foods were prepared and presented at 18th-century Mount Vernon. Before appearing in the dining rooms, crispy hoecakes, smoked hams, frozen ice creams, and other foods required the work of gardeners, housekeepers, enslaved cooks, butlers, and waiters—all under Martha Washington’s careful supervision. Follow food from farm or wharf to kitchen hearth to dinner plate. See recipes and cookbooks that Mrs. Washington treasured, pots that simmered in her kitchen, and fine tablewares that made Mount Vernon’s dining rooms fit for a president.